Visual Novel Spotlight: Collageon September 3, 2013 by Shadocchi
This fortnight is another short indie visual novel, this time from the now-defunct group Homegorosi Project. Collage details the lives of three people living and working around Ikebukuro, Japan. Over the course of two weeks, these characters interact and discover that their seemingly unrelated acquaintances are a lot more connected than they thought.
Yuuko Sasaki is an office worker who is fed up with her insufferable boss. After exposing her boss’ embezzlement of near $10,000 (£6,000), she quits her job and encounters an old high school classmate. Through her classmate, she starts working on a project which needs the talent of Yuichi Yoshimura. Yuichi recently discovered his high school girlfriend died and left behind a six-year-old child – his child. While Yuichi struggles with his new role as father and Yuuko takes on her new job, Miki Nisino eases her way into the two’s lives while trying to get Yuichi to notice her. A love triangle ensues.
As you can tell from the summary, Collage is about relationships, be they work acquaintances, family, friends or potential lovers. It’s not about anything particularly exciting or huge, and so falls into the category of Slice of Life. However, it doesn’t have the feel of visual novels like If My Heart Had Wings or True Remembrance. It’s more like an exploration of characters that are a bit too interconnected to be a coincidence and how these characters deal with problems that arise in everyday life. As such, to play Collage, you’ll need to be in the right mood for that kind of story and I admit that I was probably not in the right mindset to play it when I did. Regardless.
One of the more frustrating parts about the game is that you must play through all three characters’ perspectives from day one. Though there are a number of new, fairly natural elements and perspectives given, a lot of the conversations are repeated – meaning half of the game is reading the same conversations at least twice with little to no extra insight. Thankfully, after you repeat the first twelve days of the month three times, perspective cuts from then on have a lot less repetition. The early perspective cuts may be necessary to understand each character’s wants and goals, but I felt it was still a little annoying to read through as a player.
On the other hand, what’s appealing about Collage is its visual representation. The cluttered but colourful interface, combined with upbeat music, is reminiscent of Persona 3 and 4, although Collage was made years before. The visual cues for passing days, the music changing suddenly depending on scene or mood, and infrequent animations come together to form a unique look. I feel like I could take a look at any screenshot or blob of colours and say “that looks like Collage”, which I don’t find myself saying for many recent Japanese visual novels.
Unfortunately, Collage has a number of problems on the programming side, which makes playing a bit of a hassle. The save feature doesn’t actually save your point in the game, it saves the day you were playing, meaning you have to skip ahead to where you were. The skip option itself seems a little buggy as well. For a two hour or so game it’s fine, until you realise that infrequent options about whether to do or say something or not can result in an abrupt game over.
Nitpicking aside, Collage is one of the few visual novels that can certainly improve but is still interesting to play. While the story’s focus can be mundane for certain readers and the execution a little annoying, this game has an air about it that sets it apart from some of Japan’s latest visual novel efforts. As always, it’s worth a try – so long as you plan to read it in one sitting.
Collage is a free game for Windows (and on Mac in Wine, thanks to Christine Love), translated by Insani for al|together 2006. Unfortunately, as both the al|together 2006 and the creator’s websites are down, it’s hard to find a copy on a non-pirating site. The game does turn up in the usual places, though.